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Lawyer Says Parnas Would Testify About Numerous Trump Officials

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

The attorney for Giuliani henchman Lev Parnas says his client is prepared to name top Trump administration officials, including the president, vice president, and the attorney general as co-conspirators in an extortion scheme.

“If Lev Parnas was called as a witness, he would provide testimony based upon personal knowledge, corroborated by physical evidence,” the three-page letter reportedly says, “directly relevant to the President’s impeachment inquiry.”

The letter is addressed to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Among those Parnas is prepared to name are President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Attorney General Bill Barr, former Energy Secretary Rick Perry, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, and the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

Also, journalist John Solomon, a Nunes staffer, and the husband-wife legal team of Victoria Toensing and Joe di Genova.

Below is the letter from Parnas’ attorney, Joseph Bondy:

High Winds Blow Down Border Wall In California

A section of the border wall in southern California was blown over by high winds on Wednesday, causing the structure to fall into Mexico, CNN reported.

Mexican officials were forced to divert traffic from the area.

In an email Thursday, Ralph DeSio, a Customs and Border Protection official, said high winds “impacted a handful of panels,” adding that there were no injuries or property damage.

DeSio said that the 30-foot high wall tipped into Mexico while the concrete holding the wall in place was still drying, confirming CNN’s report. DeSio called the incident “an uncommon event,” noting winds reached speeds well over 30 miles per hour on Wednesday.

DeSio also confirmed that the construction company SLSCO Ltd was under contract for that particular section of the border wall.

In a June 2019 press release, CPB said SLSCO had been awarded an $88 million contract to replace an 11-mile section of dilapidated border wall in Calexico. According to a 2019 Forbes report, SLSCO has received contracts for border wall projects totaling almost half a billion dollars since Trump took office.

A Texas-based company, SLSCO was founded by three brothers, John, Billy, and Todd Sullivan. According to MarketWatch, the brothers donated a total of $68,000 to Republican groups or candidates in the 2018 election cycle. The only donation to a Democrat came from Johnny, who gave $2,700 to Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.

In an email, SLSCO did not provide any comment about the Calexico incident, instead referring all media inquiries to CBP.

In addition to Calexico, Forbes reported that SLSCO’s other border wall projects include several controversial stretches along the Texas-Mexico border.

In one spot, the SLSCO’s construction will reportedly run straight through the National Butterfly Center, a private nature preserve. The center’s executive director, Marianna Wright, told Forbes that “big monarchs can soar over the wall to fulfill their migration instincts” but “some species like the endangered Quino checkerspot butterfly … prefer to flit closer to the ground and will not be able to get over the wall.”

The Catholic Church in Hidalgo County is also upset that the border wall will cut off access to La Lomita Chapel, a small historic structure dating back to 1865 when it was built by French missionaries.

Building a border wall was one of Trump’s signature campaign promises during the 2016 election. At the time, he promised Mexico would pay for it. But when the Mexican government refused to do so, and Congress refused to provide $5 billion in taxpayer funds to do so, Trump declared a national emergency at the southern border.

He then reallocated $3.6 billion meant for the military, such as school buildings for children of active service members, to fund additional sections of the wall.

According to CBP, the Calexico border wall that was blown over was funded using 2018 appropriations, not funding from Trump’s emergency declaration.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

GOP Senators Propose ‘Classified’ Look At Bolton Book

As pressure mounts to have former national security adviser John Bolton testify in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, a pair of Republican senators is proposing an idea to stall and possibly block Bolton from speaking publicly about his knowledge of the Ukraine scandal.

In The Room Where It Happened, his forthcoming memoir about his time in the Trump White House, Bolton says Trump told him that he was withholding congressionally appropriated military aid to Ukraine until the country’s leadership announced an investigation into his political rivals. That is exactly what Democrats charge Trump with doing, calling that quid pro quo an abuse of power.

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and James Lankford (R-OK) suggested a deal that would allow senators to review Bolton’s book in a classified setting before deciding on whether to have him testify.

Lankford was the first to suggest allowing senators to review Bolton’s book manuscript in a classified setting to determine whether he should be called as a witness. (Bolton submitted his book to the National Security Council for classification review ahead of the book’s scheduled March 17 public release date.)

“That’s a minimum amount that we should actually be able to get and I am encouraging the White House, anybody that I can talk to to say: That manuscript is pertinent and we should get access to that manuscript to see what they’re actually saying,” Lankford told The Oklahoman on Monday.

Graham tweeted on Tuesday morning that he backs Lankford’s proposal.

“I totally support @SenatorLankford’s proposal that the Bolton manuscript be made available to the Senate, if possible, in a classified setting where each Senator has the opportunity to review the manuscript and make their own determination,” Graham tweeted.

Democrats have been seeking Bolton’s testimony for months. House Democrats called on Bolton to testify in the House impeachment inquiry last October, but Bolton refused to show up.

However, after Democrats passed articles of impeachment against Trump in December, Bolton appeared to have a change of heart and said he would testify if the Senate subpoenaed him during the trial.

Senate Democrats then attempted to secure Bolton’s testimony earlier in January, before the Senate passed the rules governing the impeachment trial, but every Republican senator voted to block Bolton’s testimony.

Following Monday’s leak of Bolton’s book, in which he discusses Trump’s quid pro quo with Ukraine, calls for Republicans to allow Bolton to testify have heightened.

Despite those allegations, many high-ranking Republicans still say Bolton’s firsthand account isn’t relevant and doesn’t change their plan to block witnesses and quickly acquit Trump before the Feb. 4 State of the Union.

So far, only one Republican, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), said he believes Bolton should testify. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said that she is “likely to vote to call witnesses,” but she hasn’t said definitively that she plans to vote for Bolton’s testimony.

Democrats ultimately need four GOP votes to call Bolton to the witness stand.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Trump Will Exclude Democrats From Trade Deal Signing Ceremony

Donald Trump plans to host a bill signing ceremony today for the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, the renegotiated North American free trade agreement, which passed earlier in January.

However, despite the fact that many House Democrats — including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — were essential to passing the deal, they will not be at the bill signing ceremony, because Trump refused to invite them, Politico reported.

So the president will take a victory lap on the trade agreement — but not alongside Democratic lawmakers who worked on provisions for the bill that helped it soar to passage.

“It’s a little petty of him,” Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) told Politico. “Actually, there were more Democrats who voted in favor than Republicans in the House side.”

Cuellar is right.

The House passed the USMCA on Dec. 19 with 193 votes from Democrats and 192 from Republicans.

Democrats spent months amending the trade agreement, adding provisions to ensure fair labor standards to prevent companies from outsourcing some jobs to Mexico. House Democrats also removed a provision they said would increase drug costs.

The snub comes as Trump fumes about impeachment. Currently, Trump’s defense team is making the case for why Trump shouldn’t be removed from office — making illogical arguments and focusing on debunked conspiracy theories in the process.

Ultimately, Trump wants to take credit for the trade deal in order to boost his reelection chances in November. And inviting Democrats to the signing ceremony to recognize their contributions to the trade agreement does not stick to his attack-Democrats-at-all-costs strategy.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Democrats Accuse White House Of Hiding Evidence About Pence And Ukraine

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Democratic lawmakers accused the White House of improperly classifying a piece of impeachment evidence related to Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday.

That evidence, from Pence aide Jennifer Williams, has been the subject of a dispute between the House impeachment investigators and the vice president. House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff has said that “there is no legitimate basis for the Office of Vice President to assert that the information” relating to a Sept. 18 call Pence had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky should be classified, but it remains undisclosed to the public.

As I explained in December:

Though the vice president’s office, along with the rest of the administration, has stonewalled the impeachment inquiry’s requests for documents, Schiff’s committee obtained information about the Sept. 18 call through Jennifer Williams, a Pence aide who has already testified. Initially, Schiff explained, Williams testified about Pence’s call and did not assert that any part of it was classified. When she testified publicly, however, she said Pence’s office had since determined that the call was classified. She later sent the committee a “supplemental submission” after reviewing “materials” that refreshed her memory about the call — and it’s that supplemental submission that Schiff would like to see declassified.

Chief Justice John Roberts allowed the material to be entered into the record for the Senate trial, but it has to be kept concealed from the public because of its supposedly sensitive nature. But when Senate Democrats got the chance to review the materials behind closed doors, they were baffled by the classification, as Politico reported.

“It highly corroborates the case that Chairman Schiff has been making and exhibits no apparent reason that it should be classified,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said. He added that someone from the administration should testify about how the information came to be classified.

“I have no idea why they wanted to classify it,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said.

But it was Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), an impeachment manager prosecuting the case against Trump in the Senate, who took the strongest line against the administration. She said the decision to classify the materials was a cover-up.

Officials must have a legitimate reason to classify materials. As Schiff told Pence’s office, in “no case shall information be classified, continue to be maintained as classified, or fail to be declassified” for reasons of embarrassment or illegality.

Pence has previously claimed he would have no problem with the details of the Sept. 18 call becoming public.

White House Gives Davos Press Pass To Anti-Semitic TruNews

The Trump administration gave TruNews, an anti-Semitic far-right outlet, official credentials to cover the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the White House Correspondents’ Association confirmed on Wednesday.

TruNews, led by founder Rick Wiles, broadcast from the site on Monday.

“We just want to thank President Trump and the White House for extending the invitation to be here,” Wiles told his audience. “Your TruNews team was sitting in the audience, very close to the stage. We got to see the president up close, hear the entire speech, and we’re again just honored that we are here. The White House has treated all of the media with a lot of respect and professionalism and courtesy.”

Right Wing Watch first reported Wiles’ presence at the event earlier on Wednesday.

The WHCA, which “does *NOT* make credentialing decisions,” has since said it is “raising this issue with the [White House],” CNN’s Jake Tapper noted.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) also criticized the decision. “Now TruNews is at the WEF in Davos on press credentials from the White House. Unacceptable is an understatement,” CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted.

TruNews has a long history of rabidly anti-Semitic content. In November, Wiles referred to the effort to impeach Donald Trump as a “Jew coup.”

“This ‘impeach Trump’ effort is a Jew coup and the American people better wake up to it really fast because this thing is moving now toward a vote in the House and then a trial in the Senate,” Wiles told his viewers.

Wiles also said, “This is a coup led by Jews to overthrow the constitutionally elected president of the United States and it’s beyond removing Donald Trump, it’s removing you and me. That’s what’s at the heart of it.”

Despite repeated anti-Semitic content, TruNews has frequently received official credentials to cover the Trump White House and one of its correspondents was called on by Trump to ask questions at a press event in 2018.

By contrast, the Trump administration has previously denied credentials to correspondents from legitimate news outlets.

Last year, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, who has reported on multiple administrations, had his pass revoked by the Trump team. The White House cited new rules limiting access to reporters “physically present at the White House for … 90 or more days in a 180-day window of time.”

Before that, the Trump White House revoked press credentials for CNN reporter Jim Acosta after he repeatedly asked Trump challenging questions. Acosta’s credentials were restored after CNN took the administration to court.

The administration has limited press access more broadly by canceling daily White House press briefings. Current White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham has never held a briefing, and the last briefing was 317 days ago, on March 11, 2019.

The latest controversy comes on the heels of the revelation that senior White House aide Stephen Miller, the architect of the administration’s draconian immigration measures, promoted white supremacist literature and bigoted ideas on multiple occasions.

In December, Trump also hosted Pastor Robert Jeffress at a White House Hanukkah event, despite Jeffress’ past comments about Jews supposedly being doomed to hell.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

At Senate Trial, Schiff Indicts Trump With His Own Words

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Addressing the Senate on the first official day of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) delivered a persuasive and impassioned speech that urged senators to conduct a robust and thorough proceeding — rather than rushing through the trial as many Republicans would like.

Schiff repeatedly dismantled many of the arguments against hearing new witnesses and obtaining new evidence that have been put forward by the president’s defenders, and he rebutted the arguments that the impeachment inquiry he led in the House of Representatives was too swift. The House, he said, has a constitutional right conduct impeachment in the manner it sees fit, and it was obligated to move forward once it had a compelling and urgent case against Trump. And while some critics have said that he should have fought to obtain more witness testimony and documents, he pointed out that the president obstructed many efforts to get this evidence and that going to the courts would have been unnecessary and far too slow.

In a clever and compelling move, Schiff used video clips of Trump’s own words to bolster his arguments. He played a clip of Trump saying, for instance, that he would like to see witnesses at the Senate trial.

“I would love to have [Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo, I’d love to have [Chief of Staff] Mick [Mulvaney], I’d love to have [Energy Secretary] Rick Perry, and many other people testify,” Trump said on Dec. 3, 2019 in London.

“The Senate has an opportunity to take the president up on his offer to make his senior aides available, including Mr. Mulvaney and Secretaries Perry and Pompeo,” Schiff said after playing the clip. “But now the president is changing his tune. The bluster of wanting these witnesses to testify is over. Notwithstanding the fact that he has never asserted a claim of privilege during the House impeachment proceedings, he threatens to invoke one now, in a last-ditch effort to keep the rest of the truth from coming out.”

Responding to the president’s lawyer’s arguments that the witnesses can’t testify now because it would endanger national security, Schiff said that it was Trump who endangered national security when he violated the law to block congressionally approved aid to Ukraine. And, he argued, the most serious cases of impeachment will always involve national security, so this can’t be a blanket excuse to obstruct impeachment proceedings.

“This is dangerous nonsense,” Schiff said. “In the name of national security, he would hide graphic evidence of his dangerous misconduct.”

Schiff then used more clips of Trump’s own words against him to make the case that the efforts to obstruct Congress — which prompted the second article of impeachment on their own — were abusive and unjustified.

“Last year, President Trump said that Article II of the Constitution will allow him to do anything he wanted,” Schiff said. “And evidently believing that Article II empowered him to denigrate and defy a co-equal branch of government, he also declared that he will fight off subpoenas. Let’s hear the president’s own words.”

Schiff then played two clips back-to-back. In the first, Trump said: “Then I have an Article II where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.” In the second, he said: “Well, we’re fighting all the subpoenas.”

“True to his pledge to obstruct Congress, when President Trump faced an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives, he ordered the executive branch to defy every single request on every single subpoena,” Schiff said. “Following President Trump’s categorical order, we never received key documents and communications. It is important to note that in refusing to respond to Congress, the president did not make any — any! — formal claim of privilege ever.”

He concluded: “The president was determined to obstruct Congress no matter what we did.”

“The videos of Trump encouraging people from his administration from testifying a few months ago (and then blocking everyone from testifying) won’t impact senators too much in terms of how they vote in this process, I think,” said Perry Bacon, Jr. of FiveThirtyEight. “I expect nearly all Republican senators to vote against new witnesses and to vote for Trump’s acquittal. But the clips do make Trump look bad, and they make the pro-Trump votes [Maine Republican Sen. Susan] Collins, [Colorado Republican Sen. Cory] Gardner and others are going to cast in this process look even worse.”

Watch the video below:

Cody Fenwick is a senior editor at AlterNet. He writes about politics, media and science. Follow him on Twitter @codytfenwick.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

At Davos, Trump Boasts Of ‘Comeback’ Despite Weak Polls

Trump on Tuesday attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and bragged at length about his administration and his accomplishments since taking office, just as the Senate began ramping up for his impeachment trial back home.

“When I spoke at this forum two years ago,” Trump told attendees, “I told you that we had launched the great American comeback. Today I’m proud to declare that the United States is in the midst of an economic boom the likes of which the world has never seen before.”

“America’s thriving, America’s flourishing, and, yes, America is winning again like never before,” he added, noting two recent “extraordinary” trade deals with China and with Canada and Mexico and reeling off positive statistics about the economy.

While that economic expansion, which began under Barack Obama in 2009, has continued under Trump, new polls show that the public is not as impressed with Trump as he is with himself.

On Tuesday, a newly released Morning Consult/Politico poll found that a plurality — 38 percent — would grade Trump’s job performance with an “F.” This represents a 2 point increase from the end of 2018.

Another 11 percent of Americans give Trump a “D,” meaning roughly half of the country rated him as below satisfactory. Just 21 percent rated Trump with an “A” and 17 percent gave him a “B.”

Trump was impeached last month by the House of Representatives on charges of obstruction and abuse of power. Though Trump told reporters in Davos on Tuesday that the proceedings were a “witch hunt” and a “hoax” — talking points he has used hundreds of times before — recent polling shows the public does not believe him.

On Monday, CNN released a poll showing that 51 percent of Americans now believe the Senate should convict and remove Trump from office. The same survey found that just 43 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing, compared to 53 percent disapproval.

Another poll released on Tuesday by American Research Group found that 37 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of his job, while 59 percent disapprove.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.